“Mr Wilson could not be contacted..”

The last time Belfast City Council wanted to keep the Big Wheel turning at Belfast City Hall they told the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, who objected to the application, that they hoped it would only stay there until August this year. Now they apparently want to keep it there until at least September 2011.. and the wheel’s owners, World Tourist Attractions, claim that the NI Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, supports them.. From the BBC report

They quoted [Sammy Wilson] as being “appalled” that part of one of his department’s organisations wanted the structure removed. Mr Wilson could not be contacted by the BBC through his department or the DUP.

However, a letter from World Tourist Attractions to Belfast City Council, released on Friday and dated 1 May, quoted Mr Wilson as stating: “There should be a huge lobby on this issue to ensure the planners come to the right decision.”

Of course lobbying, and briefing against, his own departmental officials is nothing new for the current NI Environment Minister..

, , , ,

  • alan56

    Keep the big wheel. Looks great

  • alan56

    I think people are a bit hard on Sammy. He is a real character and not the ‘baloon’ that some people accuse him of being. He makes politics interesting and is not one of those political empire builders, clinical and caluclating. Give him a break

  • The Raven

    With someone who plays cat and mouse with environmental designations?

    No.

  • alan56

    The Raven

    What decisions do you mean?

  • Pete Baker

    alan

    It’s not about any eventual decision on the planning application.

    It’s about the interjection on behalf of that application by the Northern Ireland Environment Minister, Cllr Sammy Wilson, MP, MLA.

  • rj

    Alan

    Sammy Wilson may be a ‘character’ when he is Sammy Wilson. I think he is even entitled to his bizarre notions as an MP and MLA. But as a Minister, he should not engage in public disagreement with officials in his Department. He may be entitled to take decisions which overrule professional opinions in NIEA or Planning Service, but he’s not entitled to slag off civil servants in the public arena. Even when they are wrong.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Don’t be daft civil Servants are never wrong (except when they are caught).

    Speaking of which it now appears that one of the vessels on the Rathlin route was operating unlawfully in September 2008.

    That years hard work seems to have paid off for Nevin…
    http://nalil.blogspot.com/

  • 0b101010

    But as a Minister, he should not engage in public disagreement with officials in his Department. He may be entitled to take decisions which overrule professional opinions in NIEA or Planning Service, but he’s not entitled to slag off civil servants in the public arena. Even when they are wrong.

    Wow. That’s an incredibly dangerous line of thought.

    You’d rather the departmental officials rule however they please but their minister can’t publicly overrule, clarify or correct his own department’s position? That makes for some vile politicking and places an awful lot of power in the hands of unelected, unaccountable officials.

    I’m sure Sammy Wilson isn’t waiting to be granted the right to speak his mind, nor should he; nor should any minister in the Assembly.

  • The Impartial Observer

    Regular readers may know that I work in DoE and I’m not a big fan of Sammy, but in regards to the Wheel I think he’s made the right call. I think it looks great, a good contrast between the modern and the old. NIEA are a chaotically disorganised body and often come up with some strange decisions, these are the same people who apparently OK’d the hideous extension on the side of The Grand Opera House! They do have a tendency to reject something just because it’s modern but that’s not always a bad thing if it’s done in the right way.

    The issue of Sammy lobbying planners over other planning applications is a different kettle of fish. The Aurora decision is the perfect example of that, the decision was almost certainly the right one, by throwing his toys out of the pram he succeeded in turning most of his Department against him. To be fair to Sammy he has been fighting the Planning Service’s corner in the Executive but he destroyed any goodwill the rank and file had towards him.

  • Guppy

    Ever seen the QUB school of architecture building in Chlorine Gardens?

    It looks like a Second World War air raid shelter and about as delapidated.

    The wheel is a monstrosity too and has had its day. Remember the Alliance Party would not even allow a Belfast says No banner at the City Hall for aesthetic reasons.

  • loki

    Keep the wheel. Looks great.

  • willis

    The Big Wheel does indeed look great, but would it not look equally great in the Titanic quarter?

    At some point we have to decide if it will be a permanent fixture, like the London Eye or Cloud 23 or the Eiffel Tower/Notre Dame.

    Actually the top of Cave Hill or Arthur’s seat is about as good as it gets.

    (If anyone wants to populate this post with hyperlinks I will not mind!)

    Oh go on then!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Arthurs_seat_summit_panorama.jpg

  • Comrade Stalin

    Remember the Alliance Party would not even allow a Belfast says No banner at the City Hall for aesthetic reasons.

    Yes, the aesthetic reason being that the city shouldn’t be associated with a bunch of narrowminded bigots.

    I think that Sammy Wilson is on the side of the public with this one (gawd, I’m halfway to being a DUP member these days). The Wheel is generally popular with locals and tourists alike as evidenced by the ongoing viability of it as a business. This intervention by the planners is the worst kind of bureaucratic jobsworthness. It’s right that the Minister steps in to draw a line under it.

  • willis

    Comrade

    I’m in two minds on this one (see passim).

    It looks great where it is but it has completely obscured the Titanic Memorial.

    Maybe the Memorial should be moved.

    The Jaffa memorial has done great business since it was moved.

  • The Impartial Observer

    Guppy,

    I was at Queens when that abomination was first built, (by the way, the equally ghastly Science Library next door has a plaque on the wall beside the front door saying “Northern Ireland New Building Of The Year 1970!”)some graffiti artist had written “This says it all about modern architecture!” on the side of the building!

  • I LOOOOOVE the big wheel. It has become a real symbol of the new Belfast and enhances rather than detracts from the City Hall. Especially at night and even more in the ‘blue hour’, there are great photos to be had with a wee tripod parked outside the Linenhall Library.

    The Titanic Memorial does not even need to be moved. I never even noticed until the big wheel funnelled me right past it – instead of moving it, it should be incorporated into a permanent wheel site.